Square Mile Farms
This solution addresses the following challenges:
- Need to mitigate the damages of existing agricultural food production (soil erosion, water use, pesticide use, loss of habitat, food miles, low nutritional content of mass-produced food).
- Need to reduce the carbon footprint of the built environment and create a more circular economy in urban food production, consumption and composting.
- Need to restore biodiversity (esp in cities) and air quality with planting special plant varieties and encourage pollinators and natural air filtration.
- Need to address urban ‘food deserts’ in large cities, particularly in lower income neighbourhoods and give more ready access to fresh, healthy produce.
- People’s general limited awareness and/or lack of empowerment to make a difference in their habits and lifestyle to make a positive impact on the above challenges.
This solution is to leverage modern farming techniques to bring agriculture into urban centres and reconnect people with each other and with their food. Focused on offices and residential buildings, Square Mile Farms brings nature into the built environment and create healthy green spaces (‘urban farms’) that create and engage communities of employees and residents.
It does this by bringing the technology and knowhow to create engaging physical and digital farm experiences. The physical installations create new green spaces that encourage collaboration and community through the growing and harvesting of food. The digital engagement tools allow for the farm community to ask questions, participate in the farm operations and track their food consumption, all empowering them to lead a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle.
Aligned to the challenges above:
Need to mitigate the damages of existing agricultural food production: It uses modern hydroponic farming techniques, putting farms right next to consumers. The farms are soilless or use recycled compost and do not have any pesticides. They also use upwards of 90% less water than traditional agriculture. And because they are grown close to where people live and work they do not have to be packaged to travel thousands of miles to the consumer and as a result have a much lower carbon impact in distribution to consumers and much higher in nutritional content.
Need to reduce the carbon footprint of the built environment – The farms can be highly integrated into existing buildings, consuming waste heat, water and CO2 (all essential inputs to agriculture). Because it is close to our consumer community there are also ample opportunities for composting of food waste and using it as input into the local farm. With some more time and investment Square Mile Farms believes that the farms can be deliver measurable CO2 reductions.
Need to restore biodiversity (especially in cities) and air quality – It offers plant varieties that complement the edible farm crops that specifically support pollination (outside!) and air filtration (inside or out). The farms also create green spaces in urban environments where historically there haven’t been any and thus deliver all the benefits of biophilia to building occupiers.
Need to address urban ‘food deserts’ in large cities – Farms are located in the middle of communities, providing people access to food they would not get elsewhere while providing opportunities for people to learn, get involved and improve their wellbeing.
Ultimately, the effectiveness of this solution will be measured by the engagement of the community of ‘urban farmers’ who together will be empowered to take actions to live healthier, more sustainable lifestyles. In the process they will also come to expect that food production be much more integrated into our homes and offices. The result is healthier, more connected communities of city dwellers and more sustainable buildings.
This can vary significantly depending on the nature of the client installation including key variables such as size, location (indoor/outdoor), use of supplemental lighting etc. It also depends on the extent to which Square Mile Farm develops and delivers an employee/residents engagement programme with its client. The solution is just as much about the physical installation of a farm that will have a beneficial impact on a building and its occupiers as it is about encouraging and fostering engagement with the occupiers in all that the farm represents, namely a commitment to health, wellbeing and sustainability.
Typical farm installations can range from £5,000-25,000. Square Mile Farms then customise a service arrangement with its clients based on their vision for the farm as a magnet for their employee/resident community. The return on investment for clients is across a number of dimensions including: employee/resident engagement and satisfaction, visible commitment to employee wellbeing and sustainability, creation of a new meeting place that promotes the ESG agenda, clear contribution to the WELL building concepts and others. As Square Mile Farms continue to develop their product, farms should also have a substantial impact on the carbon footprint of building, consuming waste heat, water and CO2.
Square Mile Farms currently have several installations across London. Examples:
- Farm in Grosvenor Group HQ building with crops being grown together with employees and harvest being service in employee canteen.
- Farm in Vodafone Group HQ with crops being grown together with employees and regular harvests collected by employee for consumption of fresh produce at home.
For both of the above, Square Mile Farms manages social network with employees to schedule events, offer advice and respond to enquiries
- Community Farm at Paddington Central (in partnership with British Land and Wipro) where local tenants from Paddington Central estate can collect fresh produce at regularly scheduled harvests. Square Mile Farms is also running a series of twice monthly workshops with local school children to visit the farm and learn about the importance of eating healthy, local greens and learning about sustainability.
- Network of farms across a residential apartment block in West London. Residents in the building all have access to regularly harvested produce. Square Mile Farms will also connect with residents via a community app and offer services to those who wish to grow in their own homes as well as participate in communal farm operations (eg voting on next crops, volunteering for harvesting).